Author Branding 101

Every successful author has a brand. Do you? J.K. Rowling, John Grisham, and Steven King all have a brand. We all know these authors and their unique style. If someone asks you where to find a well-written fantasy novel, you won’t send them to John Grisham or the king of horror. 

Do you have an author brand?

Author branding is a crucial element in your marketing game, and if you are missing it, then you won’t find the same level of success. 

Why is Author Branding important?

Branding is about recognition. Think about it this way. If someone asks you where to get a cheap hamburger, where do you send them? McDonald’s. Why? It’s because McDonald’s is known as a place for cheap burgers. You don’t send them to a local steakhouse to find a cheap hamburger. Think about the following words; Amazon, Coca-cola, Nike, Kleenex. Each of those words generates an image in your mind. This instant recognition is what you want to create in the minds of your readers. 

Sometimes the brand will take over the product in the marketplace, and you see this example in Kleenex and Bandaid. Both of those are brand names that have become so prevalent that they have overtaken the product. No child asks for a medical adhesive strip when they scrape their knee. They ask for the brand, Bandaid. The same is said with a kleenex. Think about this. What if your author brand could become so defined that it overtook the market in your genre. How incredible would that be?

What is a brand?

A brand is everything your readers perceive you and your company to be. It’s shown in the fonts you use in your advertisement and the color schemes you use for your website. It includes images and logos and most importantly the overarching theme of your business. Don’t worry. I will use myself as an example.

As a writer, I started out writing on a whim. Whatever came to mind, I would write and struggle to get it published. After I finally succeeded in publishing my work, I found no one wanted to buy my unextraordinary book. There was nothing to set me or my book apart from the throngs of other writers. 

After I wrote the biography of an ex-gangster from Chicago, I completely rebranded myself as a true-crime writer. Since I was writing about a mafia-style gangster, I slowly adopted a mafioso-style look to my online presence. Then came the obvious branding tool, my fedora. Here’s the story behind the hat.

I had just published “Unorganized Crime” and was heading to a local bookstore for a book signing. On the way, I stopped and picked up Sidney (the ex-gangster), and he handed me a black fedora. 

“Here Sis wear this. You’ll look cute in it.”  

Those words would change my life and author branding forever. Shrugging my shoulders, I put on the hat. It was way too big and fell into my eyes all day. While at the event, I made a short three-minute video for Facebook, asking people to come out and see us. I thought nothing about the hat.

Two weeks later, I found myself at an author event at this tiny hole-in-the-wall library. I didn’t wear a hat. For the next two hours I had six people ask me where was my hat. It was then I realized the significance. I had accidentally created an author brand and knew I had better stick with it. Now the fedora is incorporated in all my logos and I always wear it in my videos. People look for it at events, and it has taken on a life of its own.

(To See more examples of my branding check out www.mytruecrimestories.com)

Think about your genre, and how can you create a brand that will set you apart from the crowd? Is there something as simple as a hat that can build your brand? Study the successful authors in your genre and see what they do. Do all of their pictures have a specific look about them? Do they always dress a certain way? What can you do to emulate them?

I have a lot of author friends who dress up as a character out of their books at their events. Does your website represent the fantasy world you are creating in your books? I like to think of my branding as a theme. The over-arching Mafioso style bleeds into every Facebook post and every video. Think about your genre and see if you can come up with a little something that will set you apart from the crowd. 

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